Tourists visit wild Beaufort horses
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BEAUFORT -- There are a couple of spots along the North Carolina coast where it is possible to see colonies of wild horses.
One of those spots is on the Shackleford bank near Beaufort.
“It’s almost like a spiritual experience just being out here, but that might be a little too cliché, if you will, but I’ll tell you what, it’s beautiful, as simple as that,” said photographer Jared Lloyd.
As a photographer, Lloyd has spent a considerable amount of time with this colony.
“It’s exotic, it’s breathtaking, it’s, you know, especially this time of the year, it’s like paradise,” he said.
Occasionally, Lloyd leads excursions in which he takes clients out to photograph the horses. For most, it is the first time viewing untamed horses in the wild.
“It’s really surreal because, you know, you’re out on this island, there’s no other people, yet we’re in North Carolina,” said Sasha Felix from New York.
“Typically, when people think of wild horses, they think of the Rocky Mountains, the desert southwest,” said Lloyd. “You don’t think of barrier islands, turquoise blue waters, dolphins, sea turtles and lighthouses.”
Ancestors of these horses came to the Americas from Spain with early settlers and explorers. They began living this wild existence here roughly 500 years ago.
“This is the point of contact, where ultimately western Europe crashed into North America, and when they came in, they brought their horses,” said Lloyd.
The Shackleford banks horses earned federal protection in the late 1990’s, and visitors to the area are asked to keep their distance.
“On this particular expedition, there’s a real sense of respect that we don’t go and try to make the horses do anything so that we can get a good photo shoot,” said Maya Christobel from Oklahoma.
In general, those who come here to experience the horses are inclined to disturb them as little as possible, and there is the hope that others will treat them in the same manner.
“I hope that they can just find an appreciation for how amazing, you know, these horses are and the fact that, that they’ve been left alone,” said Felix.
The horses already have enough with which to contend without factoring in a harmful human impact. They have adapted over the centuries but this can still be a harsh environment.
“It’s a difficult life for ‘em out here, but, like I said, for photography purposes, I mean, it just doesn’t get better than this,” said Lloyd. “This is incredible.”